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Beehive manufacturer Chris Jeuken of Apis Bee Supplies in Tuamgraney examining the frame of a National Cedar Hive newly manufactured at his home in Tuamgraney. Picture: Arthur Ellis.

Beekeeping means business in east Clare

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A YOUNG East Clare man, who runs a thriving beekeeping supplies shop, is a proof that it’s good advice to ‘bloom where you are planted’.  

After his family moved from Holland to Tuamgraney, 23 years ago, Chris Jeuken, found his niche working with the skills and resources that nature gave him.

He credits his father, Harry, an organic farmer, with inspiring him to be a self-starter. Chris moved from making and selling chicken coops, at the age of 14, to beekeeping and, most recently, to producing high-quality bee hives. His business, Apis Bee Supplies, which he started in 2017, as “a way to keep busy on wet days”, now boasts 2,000 customers nationwide.

Chris admitted that adjusting to a new language and country, at the age of five, was a bit overwhelming. Now it’s home,” he said. “There is less stress here and I like the friendliness and openness of the people, the greenness and the beauty.”

Chris attended the local national school before developing his skills in woodwork and entrepreneurship at Scariff Community College.

“I started making chicken coops when I was around 14,” he said. “It was during the recession and it really kicked off because people were interested in producing their own food and eggs. I sold them all over Ireland.

“I learned through trial and error really because I got feedback from people about what they wanted. To get it right, you need to listen to the customer. I did that until I was around 17 and I suppose I was always on the look out for things to keep me busy.”

An interest in bees developed when Chris’s brother was doing his Leaving Cert.

“He was studying something about bees and I found it really interesting,” he said. “My brother got bees and then I got a chance to volunteer on a bee farm in Wexford with James Hogan. He gave me a bee colony and I’ve had bees since then.”

Chris described beekeeping as “addictive” and said most people who start off with one hive will have three or four of them in a couple of years. “It’s fascinating to watch the bees and see what they build,” he said.

“What the bees create inside the hive is so complex. You could spend hours watching them and seeing where they forage.”

While there is some work involved in beekeeping, Chris said that it’s a matter of staying ahead of the swarm.

“It’s like everything really, in that once you know what to do and when to do it, it becomes quite easy. You need to stay on top of things. Between April and mid-July, you have to inspect each hive every eight days, otherwise swarming can happen and you could lose the bees.”

The result of all of the work of managing the hives is Lough Derg Honey.

“That’s stocked in Scariff, Killaloe, Ennistymon and Doolin,” Chris said. “We have a stall at the gate in Tuamgraney and that’s one of our best places for sales. We have a trust box. People can see the hives and they know exactly where the honey has come from.”

The family home in Tuamgraney is the 200-year-old Georgian Glebe House, where Chris started his hive-making business.

“I was working landscaping and I wanted a way to keep busy on wet days,” he explained. “I started off making standard hives and gradually things got busier every year. We now have 2,000 customers and sell 245 products.”

“Our customers come from all over Ireland and include some local authorities and six of the Dublin Bus branches, who want to have on-site bee hives,” he said. “We have lots of private and commercial customers and it’s good to see so many return customers because it means they’re happy with the quality.”

To keep pace with demand, Chris had up to ten people working with him in June. “We have a staff of four and that rises to seven in the summer,” he outlined. “We then have two or three apprentices for the four very busy months of the year. At this stage of the year, things turn to extracting the honey.”

Chris took over most of the seven sheds at The Glebe and rents two commercial units. He also Tuamgraney secured planning permission for another shed to build more hives.

While the beekeeping supplies business continues to grow, Chris admitted that he didn’t start off with a carefully thought-out plan.

“It has just grown organically, it really wasn’t planned,” he said. “Because I have bees, people started to ask for hives and then that demand picked up every year. During Covid, lots of people wanted to get back to basics and there was a big interest in beekeeping. You don’t need much space, just a few hundreds square metres and you can really get into it.”

Chris can be contacted through Apisbeesupplies.ie. 

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